Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Genre: Young Adult
Publishers: Hamish Hamilton Ltd (2 Jun 2005)
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Summary: Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is an inventor, amateur entomologist, Francophile, letter writer, pacifist, natural historian, percussionist, romantic, Great Explorer, jeweller, detective, vegan, and collector of butterflies. When his father is killed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre, Oskar sets out to solve the mystery of a key he discovers in his father's closet. It is a search which leads him into the lives of strangers, through the five boroughs of New York, into history, to the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, and on an inward journey which brings him ever closer to some kind of peace.
First line: “What about a teakettle? What if the spout opened and closed when the steam came out, so it would become a mouth, and it could whistle pretty melodies, or do Shakespeare, or just crack up with me?"

Foer's follow-up to the hit "Everything Is Illuminated" is the poignant and quirky. This novel takes readers back to the rubble of ground zero. After reading the first novel, I came into this with extremely high expectations which isn't fair to the author. However, Foer went over and beyond my expectation by showcasing his staggering genius.

The story of Oskar Shell and his search for a connection to his dead father is just the beginning. This novel deals with the relationship between father and son, the heartbreaking repetition of history's senseless tragedies, and ultimately our strange interconnectedness with everyone and everything around us.

I went through an emotional journey with Oskar and once I finished this book I came out on the other side feeling stronger, more alive, and more healed than before. The novel explores the theme of loss and why sometimes living is so much scarier than dying. The emotions in this novel are so unbearably real, I found myself taking breaks from the novel to compose myself.

What sets Jonathan Safran Foer apart is that he is endlessly innovative. In this novel pages are filled with photographs of hands, keys, crying elephants and much more. There were pages containing just a single sentence, pages whose storytelling ends with over typing so dense the page melts into blackness, and pages depicting a falling body outside the World Trade Center who is pictured flying upwards instead of falling towards his death which beautifully depicts our universal wish about that terrible day.

The writing is lovely, the insights are sharp, the humor is refreshing. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a collage about the world we live in: its terrorism and its beauty, its love and its hate, its mysteries and humanity collective sense of understanding.

Foer is now definitely one of my favourite writers.